On April 22 1993, Stephen Lawrence a promising young black man was murdered while waiting at a bus stop with his friend Duwayne Brooks . It was an unprovoked racist attack in which the young men were racially abused and then Stephen having been stabbed twice, bled to death. The attack by a gang of white youths lasted less than a minute. There were 5 initial suspects, of which two men have been convicted, finally, of murder. The overturn of the double jeopardy verdict enabled Gary Dobson to face trial again for the crime (he had previously been acquitted) along with David Norris. After 18 years, two men were found guilty of murder today. There are still 9 other people of interest that are under investigation (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...).
In 1995, the parents of Stephen Lawrence tried to bring a private prosecution against 3 of the men that were believed to be involved in the murder and the case collapsed. In 1997, Lawrence’s parents brought a complaint against the police. Evidence of massive police corruption that had hindered the prosecutions of these murderers began to pile up. David Norris's father, Clifford, is a well-known career criminal who was thought to have paid off a witness not to testify against his son and bribed the police. Questions were raised by Paul Foot (among others) as to whether he ensured that the police went easy on his son (see http://www.marxists.org/...). This is more than police incompetence, it is police complicity in a racist murder (see also, http://news.bbc.co.uk/...). In 1999, the police officers were exonerated on allegations of racism; only one officer was charged for neglect of duty with four other officers retiring before charges could be brought (http://en.wikipedia.org/...).
The failures of the police in doing a proper job of investigation (it took 2 weeks to begin the investigation), information pointing to the perpetrators was ignored by the police, accusations of police corruption and racism led to the Macpherson Inquiry (1999) which found that institutional racism in the police force was responsible for the lack of success in investigation of the murder.
The Macpherson report led to a series of reforms of the police service to address the institutional racism found in the police force (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...) and which led to the rise of community policing. However, no change in stop and search procedures which have been demonstrated to be racially biased was ordered. Some of the changes ordered were:
The Government will establish performance indicators to monitor the handling of racist incidents, levels of satisfaction with the police service among ethnic minorities, training of family and witness liaison officers, racial awareness training, stop and search procedures, recruitment of ethnic minorities and complaints about racism in police forces.
The definition of a "racist incident" will now include incidents categorised in policing terms both as crimes and non-crimes. It will now encompass "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". A new Code of Practice will record all such crimes.
The public will be encouraged to report racist incidents by making it possible to report them 24 hours a day, and not only at police stations.
Police forces should reflect the cultural and ethnic mix of the communities they serve.
Consideration of a change in the "double jeopardy" law to enable the appeal court to allow a new prosecution after acquittal "where fresh and viable evidence is presented".
Consideration of the proposition that victims (or their families) become "civil parties" to criminal proceedings, enabling them to have access to all relevant information in the case.
Any evidence of racist motivation to be declared at all stages of the prosecution. No exclusions on the grounds of plea-bargaining.
Review and revision of racial awareness training in police forces. Local ethnic minorities to be involved in regular training for all police.
It was the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which enabled a new trial to be brought against Gary Dobson. By no means can it be argued that institutional racism has been eliminated in the UK; that is evident from disproportional numbers of people of colour in prison and in stop and search procedures used by the police (which certainly was responsible for the riots in Hackney last summer). However, the Macpherson report was the first inquiry that formally recognised the existence of institutional racism in policing and in the judicial system and it was a major step forward (earlier investigations denied the existence of institutional racism).
The investigation of forensic evidence beginning in 2007 is what led to the verdict of guilty of murder after 18 years. Blood, a hair, some fibres and a massive inquiry and examination of policing and the judicial system have enabled this result. Stephen Lawrence is buried in Jamaica, his murder led to serious examination and reflections on racism in the UK. Some justice, but far too late; but better than never.